Annatto (English for achiote) is a powerful natural food coloring spice. It gives foods a deep red color and an earthy yet subtle flavor. It's a popular ingredient in Mexico and in many parts of the Caribbean. If you've ever had cochinita pibil, tacos al pastor, or Puerto Rican arroz con pollo, you've tasted achiote. These grilled chicken tacos are similar to al pastor, with a few added twists from my recipe book.
You can find annatto in various forms. If you buy it in seeds, you'll need to quickly cook it in oil to render its coloring properties. You can also buy it as a powder or a paste. The type of achiote you would need depends largely on the dish. For instance, annatto paste or seeds work perfectly when making a sofrito base for soups and stews where liquid will be added. For this recipe you'll need annatto powder to use as a rub.
For the Chicken
3 chicken breasts boneless and skinless, cut into strips
4 garlic cloves minced
1½tablespoons annatto powder
1/2teaspoon dried oregano
1/2teaspoon cumin powder
salt and pepper to taste
For the Salsa
1 fresh ripe pineapple peeled and cut in half lengthwise then cut into quarter pieces
In a bowl, combine chicken with the rest of the ingredients and let marinate for at least 30 minutes in the fridge.
Make the Salsa
Make the salsa by combining the grilled pineapple, avocado, cilantro, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Reserve.
Grill the Pineapple
Heat the grill to medium high (I used a stove top cast-iron grill).
While grill is heating, combine pineapple pieces with agave (you can also use a pastry brush for this).
Lightly grease the grill with a small and clean piece of cloth saturated with canola oil.
Put pineapple on the hot grill and cook until the pineapple has softened (about 3-5 minutes per side). You should see some dark grill marks. Remove from the grill and let it cool before proceeding to cutting it into cubes.
Cook the Chicken
Once chicken has marinated for at least 30 minutes, place it on the grill. Cook for about 4 minutes per side (use a wide spatula to turn chicken). Chicken should look golden brown and slightly charred on the edges.
Assemble the tacos and garnish with more cilantro.